The five secrets of super influencers

Great leadership is all about influence. If you want people to go above and beyond to achieve your company’s purpose and goals, you need to understand how to inspire and influence them. Without power and influence, you won’t have followers. At best, you’ll have direct reports who listen to you only reluctantly because of the power you hold over them arising from your position. So what do super influencers do differently from the majority of leaders?

They don’t over-rely on their positional power

Super influencers know that it is unwise to rely too much on their authority. They realise that telling people what they need to do and how to do it might be appropriate during emergencies and when people are performing poorly. However, it undermines trust and respect when used as a blunt instrument in every leadership situation.

Instead, super influencers use their personal and expert power to win people over and make things happen. They listen to staff, get to know them well and involve them in problem-solving and decision-making. Become well-liked and respected by being empathetic, participative and considerate. They use their expertise selectively and carefully to guide, coach and mentor co-workers to understand problems in new ways and learn how to do things differently and better.

Influencers focus on “pull” rather than “push” influencing techniques

Super influencers resist the urge to “push” people to adopt their preferred approach with techniques like issuing directives, over-persuading and patronising people by claiming superior knowledge. Rather, they adopt “pull” techniques including listening, empathising and bridge-building to understand others and get them on their side. They value diverse perspectives and strive for win-win outcomes that take account of the perspectives of those most impacted by the decision or change.

‘In my experience, these leaders are generally experts at asking powerful questions.’

Their questions enable others to see problems and challenges from a different perspective and discover new solutions that would have otherwise not been surfaced.

They look for the best in people

Some of the biggest breakdowns in relationships and influencing occur when leaders write co-workers or stakeholders off. They attribute negative qualities to people they find it tough to connect with or those who don’t easily roll-over and accept their opinions and ideas. They then look for confirmatory evidence to confirm their judgement that these people are not worth their time.

‘Super influencers, on the other hand, see the best in people and their intentions. Even if they don’t understand or like their personal style and behaviours.’

They don’t insult them or talk badly about them behind their backs. Remain psychologically minded and curious about people and try to engage with them, even when their initial attempts to connect and influence fail or are rebuffed.

Influencers avoid negative and petty behaviours

The world of the leader is politically charged. Political behaviours usually become common as the business grows and disputes over scarce resources and advancement opportunities increase.

‘A leader who cannot be effective within this environment isn’t likely to last long or advance into more senior roles.’

However, super influencers tend to avoid ego-driven political game-playing like back-stabbing, hidden agendas, withholding information and manipulation. They use positive political strategies to promote the company’s goals. Speed up organisational change and highlight values including fairness, equality and openness. These include building and leveraging high-quality connections and interpersonal networks. Courageously surfacing unfairness and difficult topics and tackling negative political behaviours.

They never stop learning

Super influencers don’t become experts overnight. Most leaders I know who have become super-influencers understand that mastering softer skills like communication, influencing, emotional intelligence and negotiation is at the heart of great leadership. They also prioritise these over technical/functional expertise and engage enthusiastically in learning and developing new influencing skills and techniques to ensure they become master influencers.

About the Author

James Brook
Leadership Consultant | Executive Coach | Business Psychologist

James has over 25 years’ experience working with leaders and organizations internationally to optimize their performance, talent and future success. He has worked with leaders from diverse sectors, countries and cultures. Clients have included Commvault, Equinor, Gilead Sciences, GSK, PhotoBox, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Novo Nordisk, Oracle, Sainsbury’s, Swiss Re, Tesco, Yahoo! and WSP.

James has set-up and successfully grown several of his own businesses, including Strengthscope®, a global strengths assessment and consulting business. As Joint Founder and MD, he grew Strengthscope® into a market leader before selling his stake in the business in 2018.

James is a regular speaker on leadership, coaching, assessing and developing talent and the future of work. He has contributed a wide range of publications in these areas. His most recent book, Optimize Your Strengths, explores how leaders can transform their organizations by inspiring people to shine and deliver exceptional results.

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